Are you a young driver in need of a new car or the parent of one that will be making the monthly payments?
If so, you’re probably wondering what are the best new cars for teenage motorists. Well, any recommendations need to be safe, so we picked cars with Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick + ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Affordability is also critical, as is reliability, efficiency, and even coolness. Anything we recommend can’t be a total snooze. Keeping all those important factors in mind, here are our picks for the best cars for teens.
The Honda Fit is a snap to maneuver, exceptionally efficient, and more versatile than some vehicles twice its size, thanks to that hatchback body and second-row Magic Seat. With a base price around $17,000, up to 40 miles per gallon highway, and good crash-test scores across the board from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, this car is a no-brainer. Oh, and for extra fun, they can even be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, which is great because we think it will help curb distracted driving.
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What is it that Toyota does better than practically any other automaker? Oh, that’s right, they make vehicles that last forever. With luck, the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback will provide decades of reliable service with minimal repairs. Versatile, stylish, and economical with a starting price around $20,000, this five-door just about does it all. And with 168 horsepower on tap, its performance isn’t too bad, either. Another bonus? It’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Next up, a crossover, Nissan’s subcompact Kicks. One of this vehicle’s main advantages is its bargain-basement price, starting off around $19,000. But even though it’s exceedingly affordable, nothing about it feels flagrantly chintzy. The interior is reasonably nice, there’s plenty of cargo space and of course, the fuel economy is stellar, topping out at 36 MPG highway. Throw in good crash test scores and just 122 horsepower so no one can go too fast and it’s an ideal choice for teenage drivers.
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But if young motorists want something with a little more visual pizzazz than provided by the Kicks, Hyundai’s Veloster delivers. This asymmetrical hatchback looks cool yet is still reasonably practical. Three powertrains are offered, including a base 2.0-liter engine with 147 ponies, though a 1.6L turbo with much more giddy-up is also available, as is a high-performance N model with up to 275 horsepower. We’re going to recommend the base version, which starts at right around $19,500 with a six-speed manual transmission. Yes, an automatic is offered for an extra $1,000.
The Kia Forte is another excellent choice for youthful drivers. Not only does this compact sedan look great, but it also comes with an upscale interior and starts at right around $18,000. At that price, you get a standard eight-inch touchscreen, support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and much more. The Forte even earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, meaning it should perform well in practically every type of crash.
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Our next recommendation is the Mazda CX-3, one of the most stylish and upscale small crossovers available today. Not only does it look and feel far more expensive than anything that starts at less than $22,000 should, but it’s also great to drive and is extremely safe. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine provides the motivation, delivering 148 horsepower. It’s matched to a six-speed automatic gearbox and standard front-wheel drive. Of course, for extra grip, four-corner traction is also on the menu.
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The Subaru Impreza’s biggest selling feature is standard all-wheel drive, but that’s not all this small sedan or five-door hatch has going for it. An IIHS Top Safety Pick+ thanks to its superior front-crash prevention technology, excellent headlights, and all-around structural integrity, this Subaru is a jack-of-all-trades. A 2.0-liter boxer-four provides 152 ponies, while an available continuously variable transmission helps deliver up to 38 miles per gallon on the highway.
Another top choice for young drivers is the Kia Soul. A style-focused hatchback-crossover-thing, this segment-blurring icon has been totally redesigned for the 2020 model year. Not only does it look cool, but it’s also versatile, well-built, and offers loads of technology, like standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Most models of the Soul feature a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, but you can also get a 1.6-liter turbo with 201 ponies. No matter what’s under the hood, this Kia is an excellent choice for teens.
The Volkswagen Golf has always been popular with young motorists, likely because it has cachet thanks to its buttoned-down looks and no-nonsense interior. Starting at around $22,000, this versatile VW gives you a lot for your money, like a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine with 147 horsepower. There’s also standard blind-spot monitoring and even forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. But perhaps best of all, the Golf comes with a standard six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. It may not be as reliable as a Toyota, but that guarantee is tough to top.
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But perhaps the best new car for young drivers is the Honda Civic. This nameplate has a long track record of dependable and economical service, providing transportation to millions of people around the world. It’s super safe, starts at about $20,000, sips fuel, drives well, offers lots of tech, and is even available in a wide range of flavors. You can get sedan, coupe, hatchback, sporty Si and ultra-high-performance Type R versions of the Civic, meaning there’s something there for practically everyone, even teens.